The Legis­lative
Reorgan­ization Act of 1970

The unheralded law that thrust transparency on Congress and opened the floodgates for lobbyists in Washington DC

By James D'Angelo November, 2014



The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970

The Introduction of Congressional Transparency

This landmark legislation launched the congressional reforms of the seventies, transforming the institution more than any event or series of events since the overthrow of Speaker Cannon
– Wolfensburger 2000 'Congress & The People'

The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (Pub.L. 91–510 pdf | wikipedia) was an act of the United States Congress to “improve the operation of the legislative branch of the Federal Government, and for other purposes.” The act focused mainly on the rules that governed congressional committee procedures, decreasing the power of the chair and empowering minority members, and on making House and Senate processes more transparent. Almost as a second thought, they added rules for recorded votes and broadcasting of committees.

Key Sections and Clauses

Here is section 104, clause 27b, the actual text that changed the way the House of Representatives vote:

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT OF COMMITTEE VOTES SEC. 104. (b) Clause 27(b) of Rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by adding at the end thereof the following: "The result of each rollcall vote in any meeting of any committee shall be made available by that committee for inspection by the public at reasonable times in the offices of that committee. Information so avail- able for public inspection shall include a description of the amendment, motion, order, or other proposition and the name of each Member voting for and each Member voting against such amendment, motion, order, or proposition, and whether by proxy or in person, and the names of those Members present but not voting. With respect to each record vote by any committee on each motion to report any bill or resolution of a public character, the total number of votes cast for, and the total number of votes cast againstj the reporting of such bill or resolution shall be included in the committee report."

Here is section 103 and 133b, the actual text that changed the way the Senate votes. It is important to note, that while the wording looks the same as the House version above, the difference was much less substantial, because the Senate did not have the ability to congragate in the ‘Committee of the Whole.’

OPEN COMMITTEEE HEARINGS
SEC. 103. (a) Section 133(b) of the Legislative Reorganization Act 60 Stat. 831. of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 190a(b)) is amended by inserting immediately after" ( b ) " the following: "Meetings for the transaction of business of each standing committee of the Senate, other than for the conduct of hearings, shall be open to the public except during executive sessions for marking up bills or for voting or when the committee by majority vote orders an executive session.". (b) Clause 26 of Kule X I of the Rules of the House of Eepresenta- tives, as amended by section 102(b) of this Act, is further amended by adding at the end thereof the following new paragraph: " ( f ) Meetings for the transaction of business of each standing committee shall be open to the public except when the committee, by majority vote, determines otherwise. This paragraph does not apply to open committee hearings which are provided for by paragraphs (f) (2) and (g) (3) of clause 27 of this Rule."

Here is section 116, the actual text that opened the committees to electronic media, television, radio, etc.

BROADCASTING OF COMMITTEE HEARINGS
SEC. 116. (a) Section 133A(b) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, as enacted by section 112(a) of this Act, is amended by adding at the end thereof the following: "Whenever any such hearing is open to the public, that hearing may be broadcast by radio or television, or both, under such rules as the committee may adopt."

For more references and articles on the LRA1970 see this reference section. Also check here (1970s NY Times coverage of the Act), here (scholarly article on Act), and here (Politico article from 2009).